Updated: Jan 21
Several years ago, when Procter & Gamble implemented a major change initiative to streamline its business processes and improve efficiency, there was a recognition early-on that the changes entailed by the project could very well tip the organization into a state of "change fatigue".
Change fatigue is when exhaustion takes over an organization undergoing an intense or sustained period of change. As numerous studies have shown, this can lead to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and even higher turnover rates as employees become overwhelmed and burned out by the constant state of flux.
From an organizational change management perspective, it is important to recognize the signs of change fatigue and take steps to combat it in order to ensure the success of the change initiative and the well-being of employees. An even better approach is to implement a strategy to mitigate against the effects of change fatigue. Here are five ways to get ahead of the curve:
Communicate clearly and transparently: One of the key causes of change fatigue is a lack of understanding or transparency about the changes that are happening. By clearly communicating the reasons for the change, the benefits it will bring, and how it will be implemented, organizations can help employees feel more informed and in control. This can also involve actively seeking out and addressing any concerns or questions employees may have.
Foster a sense of ownership: Allowing employees to have a say in the change process and giving them the opportunity to contribute their ideas and feedback can help them feel more invested in the outcome. This sense of ownership can also encourage buy-in and reduce resistance to the change.
Provide support: Change can be stressful and intimidating, especially if employees feel like they are being asked to do something outside of their comfort zone. Providing support, such as training and resources, can help employees feel more confident and capable of adapting to the change.
Take a phased approach: Rather than trying to implement all the changes at once, organizations can consider a phased approach that allows employees to adjust gradually. This can help reduce the stress that over time can overwhelm employees, and allow them to more easily integrate the changes into their work.
Encourage self-care: Change can be draining, both mentally and physically. Encouraging employees to prioritize self-care, such as taking breaks, practicing stress management techniques, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance, can help them better cope with the demands of the change.
To combat change fatigue, Proctor and Gamble took these steps: communicated clearly and transparently about the changes, allowed employees to contribute their ideas, provided training and resources, and encouraged self-care. As a result, the company was able to successfully implement the changes and even experienced a measurable increase in productivity and customer satisfaction.
Change fatigue can certainly be a major obstacle to the success of organizational change initiatives. However, by clearly communicating, fostering a sense of ownership, providing support, taking a phased approach, and encouraging self-care, organizations can help their employees better cope with the demands of change and ensure the success of the initiative.
Matthew Baker is a Change Management and Learning & Development professional with over a decade of experience delivering user-centered graphic, audio, and instructional design, as well as project management. He holds degrees in Instructional Design, Applied Physics, and Organizational Management.